Slave Narratives after Slavery

Oxford University Press
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The pre-Civil War autobiographies of famous fugitives such as Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs form the bedrock of the African American narrative tradition. After emancipation arrived in 1865, former slaves continued to write about their experience of enslavement and their upward struggle to realize the promise of freedom and citizenship. Slave Narratives After Slavery reprints five of the most important and revealing first-person narratives of slavery and freedom published after 1865. Elizabeth Keckley's controversial Behind the Scenes (1868) introduced white America to the industry and progressive outlook of an emerging black middle class. The little-known Narrative of the life of John Quincy Adams, When in Slavery, and Now as a Freeman (1872) gave eloquent voice to the African American working class as it migrated from the South to the North in search of opportunity. William Wells Brown's My Southern Home (1880) retooled the image of slavery delineated in his widely-read antebellum Narrative and offered his reader a first-hand assessment of the South at the close of Reconstruction. Lucy Ann Delaney used From the Darkness Cometh the Light (1891) to pay tribute to her enslaved mother and to exemplify the qualities of mind and spirit that had ensured her own fulfillment in freedom. Louis Hughes's Thirty Years a Slave (1897) spoke for a generation of black Americans who, perceiving the spread of segregation across the South, sought to remind the nation of the horrors of its racial history and of the continued dedication of the once enslaved to dignity, opportunity, and independence.
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About the author

William L. Andrews is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English, University of North Carolina. He is the author of and editor of numerous books, including The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865, and The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 25, 2011
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Pages
456
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ISBN
9780199720712
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 19th Century
Literary Criticism / American / African American
Literary Criticism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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African American slave narratives of the 19th century recorded the atrocities of the antebellum South and provided a solid foundation for the African American literary tradition. By presenting 16 slave narratives in their entirety, this reference conveniently documents this historically significant literary genre. A vivid and moving history of African Americans seeking to establish community, liberty, economic independence, and education within the constraints of a repressive society. This reference intentionally avoids well-known narratives and instead collects unavailable and otherwise difficult-to-find texts. To add to the value of the work for researchers and general readers alike, each narrative is accompanied by a preface, explanatory notes, and suggestions for further reading.

Many of the narratives gathered here were influential when initially published; Josiah Henson's presentation of himself, for example, embodies many of the characteristics given to Uncle Tom by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. While other collections often only provide excerpts from widely available texts, this reference includes complete narratives. The introductions and annotations redefine current thinking in the field by closely examining how these authors used language, structured their writing, and crafted their autobiographies. By examining the historical, cultural, literary, and social issues that African Americans have faced since their arrival, this reference provides the broad context necessary to understand the literary, social, and intellectual traditions from which these writings developed.

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